Lumber linguistics

Today’s Zippy strip takes exploits the giant hammer outside the Ford Lumber Co. in Fort Washington MD to skitter over language-related matters — the metaphorical character of many common idioms, the innateness of language (abilities), natural language ontology — to lodge in a fixation on food that Zippy finds intrinsically funny (in this case, egg creams and V-8 juice):

(#1) Zippy’s attributions are a bit wonky — it’s Lakoff, not Chomsky, who hammers on the centrality of metaphor, though linguistic nativism is indeed a Chomskyan preoccupation — but then Zippy’s a surrealistic Pinhead, not a pinhead professor, and anyway, you say linguist, the popular mind thinks Chomsky, so Zippy has his finger on the pulse of the people here (even if ontology pours into egg creams for him and even if he seems to be hammered on V-8)

Meanwhile, there’s the news from Fort Washington MD.

Nailed by the giant hammer. From the Roadside America site about the Ford Lumber hammer:


on the right side of the road, in front of Ford Lumber Company. I took a right on Livingston Road and found the store front. The hammer is in a large grassy area that is easily accessible from the parking lot. The hammer has probably been there a long time, judging from the condition of the hammer head. I think it’s at least 20 feet tall. [Julie Mangin, 10/11/2011]

Alas, both the hammer and the lumber company were gone by 2019.

Metaphorical idioms. In the first panel. Adapted, mostly, from NOAD:

getting hammered ‘being attacked or criticized forcefully and relentlessly’, ‘being utterly defeated in a game or contest’, ‘getting drunk’

nailing something ‘performing (an action or task) perfectly’; cf. (of a man) nail someone ‘have sex with (someone)’

In fact, the compound noun egg cream (US) ‘a drink consisting of milk and soda water, flavored with syrup’ is also a metaphorical idiom. Omigod, they’re everywhere, they’re under my bed, they’re …

One Response to “Lumber linguistics”

  1. Stewart Kramer Says:

    The vertical layout with a centered period to abbreviate “CO.” on the handle reminds me of the peculiar sign for “ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL” in low-contrast silvery letters on the right edge of a pale sandy-colored building, visible in Google Maps street view, 1690 Church St, San Francisco, CA 94131 if you zoom in, which looks like this, with the apostrophe apparently after the S, but maybe sort-of between the L and the S:


    (I think L’ or ‘S would look better, but I’m not a professional sign installer. The horizontal signs at the roofline and over the side door at the driveway also make it seem superfluous and inexplicable.)

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